Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Somali executed for ‘apostasy’

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 16, 2009

An Islamist militia has executed a Somali politician who they accused of changing his religion by working with non-Muslim Ethiopian forces.

An Islamist spokesman in the port of Kismayo told the BBC that Abdirahman Ahmed was shot dead on Thursday.

Mr Ahmed had worked with Kismayo’s former warlord – the MP Barre Hiraale – who is accused of attempting to retake the city with Ethiopian backing.

He is believed to be the first politician executed by the Islamists.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC NEWS”

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Vote on Change.gov

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 16, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama has set up the “Citizen’s briefing book” where you and I can vote up or down issues that are important to us. One such issue is the “Health Freedom is our first freedom” issue, which is basically an anti-science, anti-vaccine propaganda. I just voted it down, but my  negative 10 points are but a drop in the bucket. Please go over there and vote it down as much as you can. I can only pray that PZ Meyers will send the Pharynguloid hordes over there asap.

Is belief in God illogical?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 16, 2009

I was reading on of my regularly subscribed blogs when the writer posed a seemingly simple question: Is belief in God illogical? My initial, automatic response was hell yeah, but then after that initial outburst of self righteous overconfidence I got to thinking. My initial answer just did not sound right for whatever reason. After  a little bit of thought and reflection I have changed my answer. My answer now is no.

Belief is a funny thing. Every day, in our lives, we do and say things based on certain unsubstantiated beliefs. Have you ever told an acquaintance that you’ll see them later? How do you know you will? How do you know you will be alive long enough to see them later? You don’t! But you still in a sense believe you will, even though you have no evidence upon which to base that belief. That’s not to advocate starting to qualify every statement we make with words like “probably” , “hopefully” and such, no sir!  That’s just to point out that we all have beliefs that we do not question. We cannot question every belief we hold, lest we spend every waking minute checking and double checking every thing. I believe my spouse is faithful but the only way to be sure is for me to be with them, ahem follow them, every minute.

What I have tried to describe in this short paragraph is the fundamental difference between belief and knowledge. They’re two different things, even though in common parlance sometimes they are used interchangeably. Many times people will say “I know X to be true” when in fact they simply mean they believe X to be true, such as in my previous fidelity example. Many people will say that they know their spouse is faithful when in fact they really mean they believe their spouse is faithful.

Now let’s get back to the God issue. Here we need to be careful with the distinction between the two words. Knowledge is based on evidence, belief need not be. You cannot claim to know if the evidence is not on your side, but you can claim to believe. And the believer will commonly fall on the above trap of confusing the word believe with the word know, unbeknown to them. I truly believe (haha) that when a believer goes around saying how they know there is a God, they really mean they deeply believe said God exists. And that is not illogical.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This is one of my favorite quotes. I don’t remember who said it, but I like to use it all the time to remind myself that saying “X is not backed up by the evidence” is not the same as saying that “X will never turn out to be true”. I feel we are in the same position with God. I think there is no evidence to support the hypothesis of the monotheistic God. But I also think that there is no damning evidence against him, especially given how the religious keep moving the goal post and keep redefining God in order to explain away every new argument against his existence, but that’s a topic for another post.

The idea of God as a supernatural being with all sorts of magical powers is not ridiculous in my eyes. It is not impossible either. We cannot say that in this Universe God is an impossibility. There are many impossibilities that we have claimed in our history which have later turned out to be true, so I think we must learn that history lesson and be very careful with the word impossible. But that’s not to say anything in favor of God though. Even though he’s not impossible, given what we’ve seen so far, given the evidence presented to us so far, he seems very very very improbable.

Nevertheless, there is nothing illogical in believing in something which is highly unlikely. Furthermore, there are varying standards of evidence. We skeptics, I like to believe, have higher standards when it comes to evidence than the religious. But that does not change the fact that the religious are quite convinced that there is plenty of evidence in support of the God Hypothesis. Take a look at the latest debate you had about God and you will see that in most cases it’s a debate about the quality of the evidence presented. IDers say that the Intelligent Designer must exist because of irreducible complexity. They present irreducible complexity as evidence of design. Real scientists argue that irreducible complecity is not evidence, but a philosophical argument at best (also a logical fallacy known as argument from ignorance). At heart this is an issue about the evidence itself. Assuming sound logic, with the same set of facts similar conclusions should follow. But if we don’t agree on the facts to begin with we are destined to disagree.

So to sum up, believing something for which you think there is enough evidence obviously is not illogical. Believing something for which there is a mountain of contradictory evidence is. I think religious people think they belong to the first group, thus in their eyes belief in God is more than justified. I also think that many atheists think that religious people belong to the second group, thus making them question the logic of such belief. I further think that this difference is mostly due to the varying standards of acceptable evidence that the two groups are employing. As such I don’t find belief in God illogical. I think it is the wrong conclusion to reach, based on the evidence so far, but being wrong does not necessarily imply being illogical. After this short reflection I’m still a proud atheist. I still don’t believe in God, but I don’t think I would be a moron if I did.

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